How to Choose a Primary Care Provider

Feb 16, 2024


How to Choose a Primary Care Provider

Selecting a healthcare provider is important — it can affect you and your family today and for years to come. You deserve a primary care provider who is a right fit for you or the ones you love. That’s why it’s worth it to take a thoughtful approach when choosing a healthcare partner.

If you are looking for a new doctor, use this guide to understand your options and ask the right questions. It will help you make an informed choice and find a physician that will be at your side on your healthcare journey for years to come.

What doctors are covered by your insurance plan?
Your particular insurance plan may require that you choose from a specific list of physicians for all of your insurance-covered medical care. Other plans require that you go to a provider on a pre-selected list if you want to pay the lowest possible co-payment.

Ask your health plan or physician group for a copy of their most recent provider directory. Also, be sure to find out how to change doctors if you don't like the one you've selected, as well as how often you can make such a change.

Read More: What Does a Primary Care Physician Do?

What type of primary care provider fits your needs?
Most of your medical care will likely come from a physician who can address a wide range of medical needs that you and your family might have. These doctors usually come from among the following four specialties:

Family Medicine – These physicians offer general family health care for all ages. A family physician may be an especially good choice if you wish to select one doctor for your entire family.

Internal Medicine – Internists provide medical care to adults, age 18 and older. These doctors are especially effective in treating chronic conditions, such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes.

OB/GYN – Specialists in obstetrics and gynecology have training in the full range of reproductive issues for women, from childbirth to menopause and beyond.

Pediatrics – Pediatricians specialize in children's health care from infancy through adolescence.

In addition to the provider’s area of expertise, you may want to consider if there are other providers at the same medical office. Often, a primary care physician will practice alongside one or more advanced practice providers such as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Having these additional medical experts as part of your team can be helpful if you need to be seen quickly and for education about a diagnosis or recommended lifestyle change.

Read More: Choosing a Pediatrician

Do you prefer a particular medical center for any hospital care?
Remember that choosing a doctor may also mean choosing a hospital. Doctors are usually affiliated with specific medical centers. If you prefer a particular medical center, check to be sure that the physician you are choosing can admit patients to that medical center. Your health plan directory will most likely have this information.

Where and when will you want to access care?
Ideally, your doctor’s office should be located near your home or workplace, whichever is more convenient for you. It’s also a good idea to call the prospective doctor’s office and speak with the staff before making a choice. Things to find out:

  • How long does it take to get an appointment?
  • Who will you see if the primary care physician is temporarily unavailable?
  • Do they offer early morning, evening and/or weekend hours?
  • Do they offer virtual visits and/or same-day appointments?

Adventist Health’s primary care providers serve in more than 90 communities across California, Hawaii and Oregon, likely including in a neighborhood near you. Most offer easy online scheduling and virtual visits. Use our handy Find a Doctor search to find a perfect fit near you.